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Major tour of To Kill a Mockingbird cancelled following ‘rights clash with Broadway producer’

Regent's Park's 2013 staging of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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This story was updated on January 22, to include a statement from the Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

A major UK tour of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been cancelled after a Broadway production of the play claimed it has worldwide exclusivity of the rights.

An adaptation of the play by Christopher Sergel was due to be staged this year by Jonathan Church Productions, Curve and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

They claim they were granted the rights to stage the play last July, however Broadway producer Scott Rudin is now declaring his company has exclusive stage rights and is understood to have contacted the UK producers demanding that their version be cancelled with immediate effect.

In a statement provided to The Stage, the Broadway producers say they “regret” the cancellation but cite the fact that they are planning a UK mounting of the show following the New York run as the reason for their actions.

The Broadway production continues until November 1, but the now-cancelled UK tour would only have run until June 8.

The tour was due to start on February 7 at Curve, in Leicester, and visit 15 locations across the UK and Ireland until June. The producers said they were “deeply saddened to have been forced into the position of disappointing audiences across the UK and Ireland”.

The UK producers were given a licence by Dramatic Publishing Company, which was conferred the rights by the Harper Lee Estate in 1969.

A statement announcing the cancellation of the tour said that other professional productions of the Sergel adaptation have been staged in the UK under similar licences from Dramatic Publishing Company – including the most recent 2016 production at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton and another by Regent’s Park in 2013.

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The British producers said there seemed to be a “difference of opinion” as to what rights the Harper Lee Estate gave to Dramatic Publishing Company, however claimed they have acted in good faith at all times.

The statement added: “Atticus Limited Liability Company [Rudin’s company] made it clear that they would commence legal proceedings against the tour’s producer, originating theatre and all venues where it was due to be presented if the tour were not cancelled with immediate effect. Atticus Limited Liability Company were unwilling to consider any compromises which were proposed to resolve the situation without lengthy and costly legal action.”

Rudin’s Broadway production – which does not use the Sergel adaptation but is a version penned by Aaron Sorkin – has not been without its own controversy.

Last year, his production company Rudinplay was involved in a protracted legal dispute with Lee’s estate over claims that Sorkin’s version “departed from the spirit of the novel”.

The two parties later settled out of court.

Ticketholders for the cancelled UK tour should contact their original sales point to arrange refunds.

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